“I promise things will get better. Just keep pushing on, one day at a time”

    I have always been anxious as far as I can remember. The first signs of anxiety started developing in my teens, thereafter my stress developed into anxiety around four to 10 years ago. I wasn’t lucky enough to have kept any close friends from my schooling days, and went into a reckless phase after university, developing relationships with people whom I would have better off without. When I came to the realisation and had enough determination to take the decision to end this phase, and all the people involved in it behind, I was left completely alone. To distract myself and escape from this reality and began working long hours.

    Taking this to an extreme, I gave up every aspect of my social life and hence my wellbeing. This meant I had a very small group of people I interacted with, no one of my own age. I hardly ate, resulting in extreme weight loss, as I was simply too exhausted to cook or go shopping for groceries. People around me thought that I was suffering from an eating disorder but in reality I was being too mentally exhausted to take care of myself. This pattern continued for well over two years, as a result, I developed horrific social anxiety.

    My experience of dealing with social anxiety can be described as a feeling of overwhelming fear when interacting with individuals, most especially those I wasn’t comfortable with. I was unable to look people in the eyes when speaking to them, struggling to keep a conversation going. I came off as, both extremely quiet and shy, as well as rude. People close to me would attest to the contrary.

    During this period of my life, my self-confidence was at an all-time low, and I felt disgusted every time I looked in the mirror. I stayed away from people as much as possible. I felt embarrassed whenever I went out in public. I constantly had a voice in my head saying that I was ugly and that I don’t deserve any friends.

    Things turned around when I was lucky enough to get a well-paying job. This meant that, for the first time in my life, I was finally able to spend money on things which may seem trivial, but now I’m aware, that they actually play a huge role in our self-confidence. For instance, getting my hair done, buying some new clothes, taking care of my nutrition. This also allowed me to cut back on my ridiculous work schedule.

    I’m happy to say now that a year on things has improved a lot. Would I say that my life is now perfect and I am happy every day? No. But on the other hand, do I still have that feeling that I am dying on the inside? Not anymore. I acted on small steps at a time that eventually made such a huge change to my life. Eating well, regularly going to the gym, and pushing myself to interact socially whenever I have the opportunity. I still struggle in social situations, but nowhere near to the extent to which I did before.

    I recently started another job which I thought was going to be the beginning of a career. However, things are not always perfect and I realised this job was causing my anxiety to increase again. I was going back down the path to the dark place I had been for so long in the past. I can say that for the first time in my life I put my mental health first and decided to quit this job. It took me too long to get out of that pitch black, horrific place and I do not intend to ever return. So if you are out there, I promise things will get better. Just keep pushing on, one day at a time.

    During the pandemic period, especially during April, my anxiety started to increase again so apart from taking the hard decision to quit my new job I also kept the online sessions with my therapist. I also needed a friendly chat with someone. I will never regret my decision to call the YMCA Loneliness line. I used to call every day for that friendly chat and I still do at times. When I don’t, I receive a call from them so that they make sure I’m fine and to remind me that I matter, that my health matters.

    YMCA’s Loneliness Response Line was launched on 23rd March 2020 as a COVID-19 response. Do not hesitate to call one of our volunteers on 99928625. You may visit the YMCA Malta website for more information about their services, and if you wish to help you may send a blank message on 50619212 for a donation of €11.65.